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How are printing technologies (including the use of inks) impacting the production of t-shirts? Have faster printing technologies and more efficient inks had an impact in how you produce your t-shirts? How much of an ecological impact have they had?
Printing technologies have evolved tremendously over the past few years. Because the vast majority of our products are decorated (printed), we are very active in collaborating with equipment and ink suppliers to ensure that our fabric finishes and surfaces are optimised to offer the best 'canvas' possible for evolving printing technologies. The evolution of direct-to-garment technologies which bypass the traditional screen-printing process has resulted in the opening of new consumer markets and the reduction of minimum order quantities for customised designs to a single unit. On the environmental side, many of the new innovations are centered on PVC-free and water-based ink technologies that are significantly less impactful on the environment.
One of the dominant trends in the t-shirt market is that of customised t-shirts. Do you see this as an opportunity, or as a threat? Or is it a fad that will pass away with time?
As I said earlier, the t-shirt market is our largest product category, representing a significant percentage of our annual turnover. The customised t-shirt category is certainly not a fad and we believe it will continue to grow as global consumers continue to adapt to more casual apparel trends and brands recognise the inherent 'promotional value' of decorated apparel.
For example, if a company, charity or cause wants to promote a message, they can choose several different mediums to broadcast their message. Putting the logo on a pen or a cup will reach only the people who receive the pen or see the cup. Putting the logo on a t-shirt that people wear in public has the opportunity to deliver that message to thousands of people every day. In other words, the 'promotional value' or return on investment of promotional apparel makes it one of the most effective mechanisms to promote a wide variety of messages.
Fast fashion goes hand-in-hand with t-shirts and constitutes an overwhelming bulk of postconsumer waste. T-shirts are anything but sustainable fashion. What is your take on this?
There are several elements to the discussion related to environmental and social impacts of the fashion and apparel industry that reach far beyond just the post-consumer waste factor. Conceptually, 'fast fashion' was intended to create supply chains that more quickly delivered evolving style trends to consumers in ways that better met their needs. On its own, this core concept is not what drives the negative impacts we see now. The negative impacts commonly attributed to 'fast fashion' are generally driven by deflationary price pressures that have driven over-consumption and a resulting degradation of quality and durability. The average global consumer purchases three times more apparel annually and keeps that apparel for half the amount of time as they did in 2000.
Our vertically-integrated business model and commitment to investing in technology, manufacturing efficiencies and building scale means that we have been able to successfully meet the deflationary price pressures of the global markets without any compromise to the quality of our products or the responsible practices we employ within our operations. By maintaining high product quality across all of our brands, we believe that our products last longer. Furthermore, by incorporating timeless styling into our collections we believe that our products become less of a disposable fashion commodity than we see across the 'fast fashion' spectrum of products that follow runway trends.
Our ownership of manufacturing operations also creates better stability within our supply chain and allows us to invest in sustainable solutions. These investments have allowed us to create more sustainable operations that deliver leading results such as:
43 per cent of our total energy consumed was generated from renewable sources; 86 per cent of the company's total waste was recycled or repurposed in 2017;
98.9 per cent of the workforce producing our apparel are permanent employees;
In 2017, women represented 47 per cent of our total workforce and held 42 per cent of management positions;
Our water conservation initiatives generated in excess of 1.2 million cubic metres of water savings despite production increases of 4.6 per cent in 2017.
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